2015: Endings and Beginnings

As we enter a budding spring time at Tisarana after the ending of our winter retreat, many changes have been brought to the fore.

The Saturday Afternoon Program Resumes Beginning at 1:00 pm.

The first Saturday of April brought many old friends back to the monastery and we would like to announce a small change in schedule. A request was made from lay supporters to have the Saturday program begin at 1:00 pm instead of 2:00 pm due to the long wait for the practice session to begin after the meal and to allow those from further distances to return home sooner rather than later.

The Next Work Bee on Saturday, May 9

We plan to hold a work bee to initiate planting trees at the monastery. Both Noi and Aka are offering their time to help with further landscaping and will be leading a tree planting day on Saturday, May 9. The work will begin around 9:00 am and end around 4:00 pm. After the work is finished Luang Por Viradhammo will have an early tea with anyone who is interested in speaking with him. This is in lieu of the regular Saturday sit and talk that we will forgo on May 9th.

Annual General Meeting on Sunday, May 24

The Tisarana Annual General Meeting (which establishes us as a non-profit) will be held at 1:00 pm on May 24th. All are welcome to join.

Vesakha Puja: Saturday, May 30

This year we will hold our annual Vesakha Puja (a day commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death) on Saturday, May 30. Details of the day’s schedule will follow in a few weeks.

Luang Por Liam and Ajahn Jundee to Visit Tisarana, June 19 to June 24

After several invitations were made, Luang Por Liam (the current Abbot of Wat Nong Pah Pong and successor to Ajahn Chah) as well as Ajahn Jundee (a senior disciple of Ajahn Chah) will visit Tisarana this summer, June 19 to June 24. On Saturday, June 20, Ajahn Jundee will give a translated Dhamma talk for the Saturday afternoon practice session which will begin at 1:00 pm. On Sunday, June 21, Luang Por Liam will conduct a plaque laying dedication for the new Dhamma Hall and offer a Dhamma reflection as well. This will take place after the meal dana around 1:00 pm.

Tea Time Question and Answer Sessions

A few days a week Luang Por Viradhammo and other Tisarana monks will attend tea time question & answer sessions beginning at 5:00 pm. These will not be conducted on Saturdays (due to our Saturday afternoon session) or the day before/after the Lunar Observance day (when the schedule is more open for solitary practice). You can find more information about when our lunar observances dates are on our calendar.

Attending the Lunar Observance Day Vigils

On each New moon, Full Moon, and Half Moon, Tisarana residents, guests and visitors observe a longer period of practice from early in the morning until midnight. The formal group practice begins at 7:00 pm and after a Dhamma talk around 8:00 pm, the community practices sitting and walking meditation until midnight. All are welcome to join for all or part of the vigil. You can find more information about this on our calendar.

A Twenty Year Plan

Over the past two weeks Luang Por Viradhammo has been in discussion with Ven. Cunda and Ven. Khemako about a 20 year plan for Tisarana Monastery. Details have included building two or three more cabins for a total population of ten monastics, building three more cabins for long term lay guests, a kitchen refurbishment which we hope to commence in April of 2016, a phased plan for the new meditation hall (including new bathrooms), along with other planning details.

Community Member Changes

Our beloved novice, Samanera Bodhisaro is off to Burma in late April to see if he can ordain under the tutelage of Pa Auk Sayadaw at Pa Auk Monastery. After discussing his interest with Luang Por Viradhammo, both he and Luang Por agreed that this would be the best move for him. When asked what the best learning experience was for him at Tisarana, he replied: “Luang Por has taught me that the practice is not only about learning how to follow the rules of a monk, but to understand empathy and gratitude as well.” Samanera Bodhisaro has now received his visa and is arranging his departure within the next few weeks. We wish Samanera Bodhisaro all the best in his latest pursuits and wish to express much appreciation for his kindness and care of the Sangha as well as his devotion to Dhamma practice.

Samanera Khema has asked to go forth as a Bhikkhu this year, taking the higher ordination. The Sangha agreed to this and arranged for Sunday, October 11th to be his ordination date (at Tisarana). Samanera Khema has been both kind and helpful to the Bhikkhu Sangha and diligent with his formal practice as well. We are looking forward to his ordination in the fall.

The three non-Canadian Monks, Venerable Suvijano, Venerable Cunda, and Venerable Khemako have all expressed an interest in staying on for another year. Ven. Suvijano continues to pursue the art of sewing, making monastic jackets and sitting meditation mats and cushions. Ven. Cunda will help LP Viradhmmpo with administrative and guest duties and Ven Khemako is Tisarana’s work monk taking on work projects and assigning monks and guests to deal with the monastery work scene.

Venerable Atulo also plans to spend the vassa here. Some locals may see Ven. Atulo walking alms round on the mornings of the observance day and the day after the observance day. He has taken up this practice following the 2500 year old tradition whereby monks walk in search of alms food subsisting on the offerings of the laity. In Thailand, lay supporters will typically put something small in a monk’s bowl, like a handful of rice or a small cake. This daily contact between monks and lay people has been a foundation of Theravada monastic culture for thousands of years.  As Buddhism spreads to the West, perhaps the sight of monks walking for alms will become a more common occurrence.

This year, we are planning to be joined by Ajahn Dtum who is a Thai monk with ten years in the robes. He has spent most of his time training in Ajahn Chah monasteries in Thailand and is now seeking to broaden his horizons by practicing in the west.

Venerable Sallekho also plans to join us this year. Originally from Ottawa, Ven. Sallekho spent more than 6 years training in Thai monasteries through the auspices of Wat Pah Nanachat, the International Forest Monastery of Ajahn Chah.

And of course Luang Por Viradhammo will continue to teach and stay at the monastery this year, helping us gain access to the Dhamma and understand more clearly the path of practice.

A Few Words From Venerable Khemako After His Time in Winter Retreat

April 02, 2015
Flights of Canadian Geese are honking in overhead as the flock makes its way back. Squirrels have resumed hostilities with each other and the chipmunks; birds are re-populating the forest, staking out territory for the season, like first arrivals on a Hawaiian beach.  It sounds like Spring, but out the window it doesn’t look like it – there was fresh snow this morning atop the accumulation left on the ground from earlier. It won’t last long, alas.

The winter here in Ontario has fulfilled for me a long-standing fantasy, to be snowed-in some place quiet with plenty of firewood and resources for a long stretch of solitude. The retreat crew took excellent care of all of us, and with light duties and no worries I was able to get a fair bit of meditation work done. It might melt away with the snow, but at least for a few months I’ve deeply re-connected with my reasons for being a monk and felt a stronger inner alignment to the undertaking.

Part of my mind is gearing up for the work-year, projects are suggesting themselves in the workshop, the barn, the kutis and the landscape. Just before the retreat started the Abbot showed me plans for a new meditation hall and I’ve managed to not think about it at all up until now. The kitchen is to be refurbished, current structures will be re-purposed, additional facilities will have to be installed. It’s an exciting time at a growing institution and the work-year is about to break over us like an April sunrise.

The does are waddling around gobbling new buds off low branches, wide with coming fawns. There’s a limping winter casualty, a raccoon with only one eye and three legs, he patrols nearby the compost pile. I can hear the traffic on the highway a few miles off. The wind is blowing, the ground nearly aching with life as the earliest insects emerge to dance.

In my memory, though, lingers a clear dark sky bearing just the thinnest sliver of the new moon, with Venus shining beside her over the frozen landscape, so beautiful and still I could only stand gazing until I shivered.  One grey snowy day in frigid February I put on my snowshoes and trudged a labyrinth into the blank slate of an open meadow, following the pattern of Ariadne’s thread, pondering the Minotaur, Daedalus and the source of becoming. In March when the springtails appeared atop the snow I knew the end was near and let heave a small sigh. Soon my cabin in the snow will be surrounded by mud…

Tomorrow I’m back in the hall for the community vigil, on Saturday we receive a house full of guests, and the world changes yet again.

I’m planning to stay here for a fair bit longer. If you find yourself anywhere in Ontario I’d be happy to see you, please come by for a visit.

Warm Regards,